The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter XIV

That the powers have been attained in East and West (though in a far lesser degree in the West) there really can be no question, in my opinion. I have cited a few cases, avoiding Western instances in so far as I could because they are contentious ground and my aim has chiefly been to suggest the study of Eastern thought. But attainment of supernormal powers by flashes or in continuance has been noted and borne witness to, not only in all the faiths but in many other credible sources, so often as to set doubt at rest. It may be safely asserted that the supernormal does occur, that it has its laws, and that they may be studied and watched in their working out in manifestation by those who will take the trouble and who are qualified to take it. There is much to be learned yet. We are as men who have landed on the shores of an undiscovered country and have seen a part of its beauties and wonders but have not yet stood upon the mountains from which the whole land may be surveyed.

I myself believe that there are records in the great faiths where death has been transcended and the mountains climbed though it was impossible for those who stood on the conquered peaks to convey the fulness of their vision to us in the valleys below. I have tried to set forth why this difficulty must exist and why it is necessary to evolve an audience as well as a Teacher.

In this chapter let us consider whether there are any lower in strength and vision than the Greatest, who have here and there stood for a moment on the mountain peaks (possibly by the mercy of some great perfected soul) and beheld the spiritual vision on which the faiths of the world are based, however they may have distorted it in their earthly record. Have we instances of men and women who have entered upon the highest ecstasy and have realized psychic existences high above our understanding? I describe from the experience of the Greatest what this state and vision appear to be, and we can consider whether celestial flashes of it, as if a door opened and shut almost instantly, have happened in the experience of others less highly evolved. In this book I have told strange stories of things that have been observed and believed in times past and our own, and I must leave it to my readers to judge whether these have proved this stupendous fact in the sense in which a mathematical fact may be said to be capable of proof by man's reason. But if that proof is possible in the lower forms of the Occult it is impossible in the highest spiritual flight of the consciousness. It is beyond the judgment of our reason. If we do not feel and understand by union we must wait our day.

Therefore in this chapter I touch upon remarkable experiences of what has been called the cosmic consciousness (needing not only volumes but libraries to describe them with any fulness) which lead to the gate of the mystery by which it appears man's consciousness may be brought into relation with the highest source of light and power.

It is therefore necessary to speak of the mystics of all parts of the world and of all faiths, for the reason that they have perceived, by what may in part be described as intuition, the basic fact that in the universe is no duality but only One of which man is a part. On this all true appreciation of the "occult" eventually centers.

We now enter the region where dwell those who have been possessed of what may be called the highest form of Consciousness that man can conceive, though no doubt there are higher still beyond our ken. Professor James says:

"There is a certain uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to meet. This is the liberation of the soul."

Liberation from what? The bonds of time, space, and motion and all that binds a man to the earth as we know it.

There has come to some men and women of many races a sudden enlargement, a sudden consciousness and certainty of universal things hitherto unknown which has changed all their conceptions of the world and its values. And if it be objected that religion need not necessarily have anything to do with the "occult" let me repeat that religion is the strongest force known in the world for energizing what I may call the psychic nerve and arousing it into an activity of vibration which appears to relate it to other hitherto unfelt vibrations. And even where the impulse has been what is called "religious," very often the results have entirely transcended all popular conceptions of religion and the realization is not that of confirmation of any dogma but of a great and universal liberation and much more. I will take some Indian examples first because in former chapters I have given the Indian method of discipline and training which they considered led the way to this realization and the attainment of what are there called "the powers."

Let us take as example one of the most world-moving experiences, that of the Indian Prince known as the Buddha; because, though its results for the world were incalculable, it presents a typical case of what I endeavor to describe, and he was a man born of a branch of our own Aryan or "noble" race. He renounced the sensual luxuries and pleasures of the world. He cannot be said to have renounced love in leaving his wife and child because love in that connection was simply transmuted into a higher form of love. He essayed and abandoned a useless and cruel training by asceticism, then, adopting a reasonable form of disciplining the body, he gave himself to concentration and contemplation and at last, seated under a tree after the manner of many of his predecessors, he received what he and his disciples have since named Enlightenment. He is said, as the perception reached him, to have cried aloud, "Unbounded Light!" and to have henceforth perceived the world in quite other aspects than those it had hitherto presented and to have attained "the powers," though he considered them in themselves so far transcended by other considerations that he seldom used them or commended their use by his disciples. He was known henceforward in India as The Supremely Awakened One.

What had he perceived? To what had he awakened? Here language suited to and invented by the commonplace perception of our senses breaks down. 'We must get as near as we can but it will be only a shadow of the truth. As Walt Whitman (who had flashes of the higher consciousness) says:

"When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot.
My tongue is inefficient on its pivots.
My breath will not be obedient to its organs.
I become a dumb man."

The Buddha perceived what is described as the Formless, the Beautiful, perfect Bliss, utter Enlightenment, a solvent in which all the sorrows of the world are dissolved and disappear. He perceived that all the universe is One and that the sorrow which breaks and bruises us is caused by belief in the separate and individual self in man, which belief is the root of all selfishness and grief and their concomitant crimes of ignorance. And he found that in realization of unity lay not only deliverance from sorrow but realization of powers more amazing than the sudden gift of sight to one born blind. He found that all life is One. And I believe it to be certain that when science extends its survey from the materialistic to the realm of ideas and consciousness the Buddha will be found awaiting its arrival with the serenity of The Utterly Awakened, he who achieved and knew by direct cognition the laws behind the phenomena revealed by the senses. He perceived an ordered universe, the smallest movement definitely caused and itself the cause of action, and he perceived that when these are understood power follows as a necessity. He became a Master of the Occult, a Master of Yoga by the two roads of asceticism and contemplation.

I pass to lesser cases in India and, as one, to the teacher famous in India in the middle of the nineteenth century, known as Sri Ramakrishna. His life is a wonderful record of realization and the powers that follow upon it, powers which in themselves did not particularly interest him, drowned as they were in the knowledge of the higher vision, but allied with the purpose of this book and therefore to be noted. Realization came to him in the typical way--devotion, longing for liberation from the bondage of the senses, and then one day, suddenly, a flood of light and the temporary loss of self-consciousness.

I will mention some of the powers it brought with it. They are described as "characteristics distinctive of the highest degree of concentration." He would meet his disciples at the door, and begin to answer, without being asked, the written questions they carried in their pockets. He could tell by touch the character of anyone who had even come in contact with his food, clothes or mat. He would say of one from whom he shrank, that the contact "burnt" him. Sometimes--"Look, I can eat this. Some good soul must have sent it."

His disciples have told of the strangeness with which they would listen to one side of a dialogue carried on for hours while Ramakrishna, resting, evidently believed himself to be communicating with beings they could not see. He had his own nervous force so completely under control that during his last illness he could remove all consciousness from the cancer in his throat and allow it to be operated upon as if under a local anesthetic. He could interpret the smallest detail of the physical constitution of others as expressing their inward personality. He would throw a disciple into the hypnotic state and learn from his subconscious mind all that was lodged there. At times, he said, men and women seemed to him like glass and he could look them through and through. Above all he could by his touch (and this power is strangely related to the central Figure of our own Scriptures) exercise a compelling power over other lives. Through this touch they also received flashes of the higher consciousness which molded their futures.

An example is given of his placing his hand on the heads of a row of persons with a different phrase for each, and each receiving a different gift. With one, overwhelming joy; to another a great light which never left him, so that he could never pass shrine or temple after without seeming to see there in that light a Form which he described as "the Spirit that dwells in the images," and so forth. One of his disciples says, in speaking of the usual talk of men's consciousness: "Consciousness? What does consciousness matter? It is as NOTHING compared with the unfathomable depths of the subconscious and the heights of the superconscious. In this I could never be mistaken, for had I not seen Ramakrishna gather in ten minutes from a man's subconscious mind the whole of his past, and determine from that his future and his powers?"

Of this disciple Ramakrishna eagerly asked when he first saw him, "Tell me, do you see a light when you are going to sleep?" "Doesn't everyone?" asked the boy, in wonder. He had indeed a consciousness of light so great that he took it for granted that someone had placed a bright lamp behind his head. When he was to speak in public, which he did frequently and with power, he would hear at night in his room a voice shouting at him the words he would say next day. It was given to him. This man was the well-known Vivekananda.

One might multiply such instances as these Indian ones, but I will come near to the greatest within our own intimate knowledge.

Who does not remember how on what may be called the initiation of the Christ he saw the heavens opened (again the great light) and after that the powers, and so much else that does not enter into the sphere of this book? Or the blinding flash outside Damascus that communicated the powers to St. Paul to which he so often refers with the perfect simplicity of true experience--"occult" indeed if not understood as realization of the world as it really is and the consequent power to use its forces as they exist in their might.

But there are many lesser who have plunged (to quote Professor James) "into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely 'understandable' world." There is the case of Boehme, the inspired shoemaker who in 1600 A. D. saw this great light and from a state of ignorance suddenly became one of whom it could be truly said:

"He learned to know the innermost foundation of nature and acquired the capacity to see henceforth with the eyes of the soul into the heart of all things, a faculty which remained with him even in his normal condition. In so much as viewing the herbs and grass he saw into their essence and properties and in like manner he beheld the whole creation and from that foundation wrote his book 'De Signature Rerum.'"

In a third illumination it is said, in a beautiful analogy, "that which had in former visions appeared to him multifarious was now recognized by him as Unity, like a harp of many strings of which each string is a single instrument while the whole is only one harp." He says himself:

"The gate was so opened to me that in one-quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been for many years at a University. For I saw and knew the being of all beings, the abyss and the byss. So that I did not only greatly wonder but exceedingly rejoice."

There is an English instance of the same illumination, if possible more wonderful than that of Boehme. Those who wish to understand the bright illumination of the higher consciousness cannot do better than study the life of William Blake--the great poet, artist and mystic. Every word he wrote, every line he drew, is worth deep consideration, though I admit that for some of his prophetic poems psychological insight akin to his own, however far below it, is needed.

He had his first insight into the Land behind the Looking Glass of the senses between the ages of eight and ten, and ever after that seems to have been free of certain lovely aspects of that strange land, and even to have climbed some of its mountains. Of his first vision it is told that walking on Peckham Rye, near Dulwich, he looked up into a tree and saw it filled with angels for birds, their bright wings radiant as stars in the boughs. Coming home he innocently told what he had seen and was only saved from his indignant father's thrashing by his mother's en-treaties. A little later, among the haymakers in a field he saw winged figures moving and shining. About the age of twelve he wrote one of his loveliest lyrics. He developed rapidly as an artist and his father decided to apprentice him to the famous engraver Ryland, engraver to the King, in the highest circles of literature and society and of delightful appearance and manners. The elder Blake took his boy to see his future master expecting great things from the interview, but as they left the studio, the boy spoke:

"Father, I don't like the man's face. He will live to be hanged."

Twelve years later Ryland got into embarrassment, committed forgery and was hanged. Gilchrist,  Blake's puzzled biographer, hovers between prophetic gift and natural intuition for an explanation of this strange incident. It needs little explanation to those who know the A B C of the rules of true sight unconditioned by the senses, and it is interesting to compare it with Ramakrishna's like power. When he was still a young man a beloved brother died, and Blake, by the bedside, saw the freed spirit soar upward, clapping its hands for joy. In a letter to a friend he describes metrically a true vision of the Land behind the Looking Glass, which he saw while living in Sussex.

"In particles bright
The jewels of light
Distinct shone and clear,
And each was a man
Human-formed. Swift I ran,
For they beckoned to me,
Remote by the sea,
Saying: 'Each grain of sand,
Every stone on the land,
Each herb and each tree,
Mountain, hill, earth, and sea,
Cloud, meteor, and star,
Are men seen afar.'
Till the jewels of light,
Heavenly men, beaming bright,
Appeared as one man . . ."

And so the vision proceeds until he is lost in its radiant beauty. He may have seen a perfect truth. All things are possible in the Land beyond the senses! It was here that he saw his vision of a flower-spirit's funeral. "Did you ever see one?" he asked a woman who sat by him.

"Never," she answered in natural astonishment.

"I have," he said, "but not before last night. I was walking alone in my garden; there was great stillness among the branches and flowers and more than common sweetness in the air. I heard a low and pleasant sound. At last I saw the broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures of the size and color of green and gray grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs and disappeared. It was a fairy's funeral." In other words, he could perceive the indwelling spirit in all and recognize it as a part of the spiritual and divine.

He writes to a friend:

"I am under the direction of messengers from heaven daily and nightly. But the nature of such things is not without trouble and care."


"I have traveled through perils and darkness not unlike a champion. Nothing can withstand the fury of my course among the stars of God."

And so he goes along the flowery lanes:

"With angels planted in hawthorn bowers,
And God himself in the passing hours:
With silver angels across my way,
And golden demons that none can stay."

It is most interesting to note that in the visions of the higher consciousness the geography and inhabitants of that lovely and terrible land behind the Veil of the Senses take the shape that will be most familiar to the percipient. It is not so in the ecstasy of the highest consciousness. There the Universal is perceived in blissful union. But Blake will see the winged angels and the figures of the Christian story, beautiful as the pictures of Fra Angelico, moving in blue and crimson against golden backgrounds of pure light, and Ramakrishna will see the Great God of the Himalayas with the young moon in his hair, and both be true and both divine though not the highest form of perception. This must be so until the flesh and its limits are utterly transcended, and I believe Ramakrishna had attained that vision and I cannot deny that Blake may have done so though I do not find any authoritative evidence that he did.

It is easy to understand that for those who see by means and at times when they should not, the things seen may be horrible, revealing terrible depths in their own subconsciousness.

"For all things exist in the human imagination." So said Blake himself, using the word in its great creative sense which proves us indeed part of the force which "moves the sun and the other stars."

The death of Blake is one of the most blissful, radiant things ever recorded. "Just before he died his countenance became fair, his eyes brightened and he burst out into singing of the things he saw in heaven."

I wish I could give more space to the divine simplicity and serenity of his visions. Happy are those who see! Poor and neglected, he livid in the valley of vision, fulfilled with joy anvil beauty.

I might multiply instances. It is from overfulness and not paucity of material that I pass on. I must mention the occult relation of animals to men which is so fully recognized in India, and of which many of us are vaguely and some clearly conscious. When that is understood as it is by the superconscious race beginning and slowly evolving "amid the half-formed creatures round," our attitude towards the animal world will be completely changed by the new realization and consciousness. I shall give a closing chapter to this. But before quitting this subject of the higher consciousness I will give an interesting quotation from a modern realization of the higher consciousness.

"The subject was in the beginning of his thirty-sixth year. He and two friends had spent the evening reading the poets and especially Walt Whitman. They parted at midnight and he had a long drive. He was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once he found himself wrapped around as it were by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next, he knew the light was within himself. Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning flash of the Brahmic splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon his heart fell one drop of the Brahmic bliss, leaving thenceforward forever one after-taste of heaven. He saw and knew that the cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the universe is so ordered that all things work together for the good of each and all, and that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love. He claims he learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous years of study, and much that no study could have ever taught. The illumination continued but a few minutes but the effect was ineffaceable. A new and higher order of ideas. Years after, he met a man who had had a large experience in the higher life. His conversations with this man threw a flood of light upon the meaning of what he himself had experienced. He saw the significance of the subjective light in the case of Paul and in that of Mohammed. The secret of Walt Whitman's transcendent greatness was revealed to him. He came to the conclusion that there exists a family [I should myself say "a group"] living among but scarcely forming a part of ordinary humanity, whose members are spread abroad throughout the advanced races of mankind and throughout the last forty centuries. Their eyes have been opened and they have seen."

Of this I think there is no doubt, and the more one examines history--especially the history of ideas--the more it will be conceded. Those who have the flash of Brahmic splendor--what Walt Whitman describes as "ineffable light, light rare, untellable, lighting the very light, beyond all signs, description, languages"--are not and cannot be as those who do not know. But their numbers will grow. This is the eventual destination of the whole human race.



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